Earning an online doctorate in education leadership can bring advanced career and salary opportunities in the education field with it. Ideal applicants include individuals who want to solve major problems in education and improve student outcomes. Graduates of online doctoral programs in educational leadership find careers in education policy and managing school administrations and academic programs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a faster than average growth rate for the profession between 2016 and 2026. Rising student enrollment and increased awareness about the importance of education both contribute to increased job growth for the educational leadership profession. Prospective students can find many affordable, accredited educational leadership doctoral programs online.
Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership?
Doctoral students typically invest considerable money and time completing their degree. Before choosing a program, prospective Ph.D. students should think about what they hope to gain from completing their doctorate in educational leadership. Earning an educational leadership Ph.D. can benefit graduates in many ways, including increased compensation, better job opportunities, and professional and personal fulfillment.
Graduates with a Ph.D. in educational leadership qualify for more advanced positions in education. Some careers available to Ph.D. graduates include elementary, middle, and high school principals; postsecondary education administrators; and education researchers, analysts, or policy workers. These types of advanced positions require professionals with the expertise and experience that students develop while earning their degree.
Postsecondary education administrators earn a median salary of $94,340 a year, and chief academic officers make $134,774 on average.
Advanced leadership positions in education typically come with competitive compensation, especially compared to most other positions in education. For example, postsecondary education administrators earn a median salary of $94,340 a year, and chief academic officers make $134,774 on average.
Professional or personal goals that positively impact the education system represent two more important reasons to earn a doctorate in educational leadership online. After years of working as teachers or in other roles in education, many professionals want to make a bigger impact on a system-wide level. Ph.D. students gain the leadership, research, policy, and communication skills that ensure change on a broader level. They also develop more nuanced knowledge of the challenges that educators and students face.
What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership?
Earning an online doctorate in education leadership can lead to many high-level, well-paid career opportunities. Students learn how to serve as transformational leaders who create positive change in the education system and other industries. They gain communication, leadership, analytical, research, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills that translate well into many different positions.
Graduates of online doctorate in education leadership programs work in many settings, including K-12 schools, universities and colleges, private organizations, government agencies, nonprofits, and consulting. They teach; conduct research; manage budgets; supervise staff; and create, implement, and analyze programs.
The specific types of careers available to educational leadership Ph.D. graduates depend on what their program focuses on, their specialization area, and prior professional experience. For example, students who specialize in educational administration qualify for administrative positions like K-12 principal or postsecondary education administrator. Those who select a concentration in leadership for higher education qualify for positions such as academic dean or provost.
Typical careers for graduates of educational leadership doctoral programs include postsecondary teacher, K-12 principal, postsecondary education administrator, education program coordinator, and chief academic officer. Other potential career paths include researcher, policy analyst, training and development manager, human resources manager, and consultant. We describe some of these jobs in detail in the following section.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal
Postsecondary Education Administrator
Education Program Coordinator
Chief Academic Officer
Educational Leadership Ph.D. Program Overview
What can learners expect from an online doctoral educational leadership program? Although exact details vary by school, most programs offer similar curriculums, program outcomes, and admission requirements. Program focus and outcomes differ depending on whether the doctoral program offers a Ph.D. or an educational leadership doctorate (Ed.D.). The section below outlines the differences between these types of degrees. It also discusses what to expect from typical educational leadership doctoral programs.
Types of Doctoral Degrees in Educational Leadership
Prospective students who want to earn a doctorate in education might wonder what type of degree to pursue. Online doctoral programs in educational leadership offer two different degrees: a Ph.D. in educational leadership or an Ed.D. Prospective learners should consider their career goals when choosing which degree to pursue. The Ed.D. and the Ph.D. both constitute terminal professional degrees in education.
Both programs generally require students to hold a master's degree and several years of relevant professional experience. The Ed.D. and the Ph.D. both take an in-depth look at important problems in education and provide education leadership training.
Ph.D. in educational leadership programs typically appeal more to students who want to work in education policy.
The Ed.D. in educational leadership usually features a practice-based, applied curriculum. Students who want to take advanced leadership positions in schools and other educational settings typically earn the Ed.D., which is widely recognized in the education field. They work as principals, district administrators, and college deans. Ed.D. programs often offer an internship or applied thesis option in lieu of a formal doctoral dissertation requirement.
Ph.D. in educational leadership programs typically appeal more to students who want to work in education policy. They take a theory-based, scientific approach to studying educational leadership. Coursework usually includes statistics, research methods, and policy analysis. Ph.D. programs in educational leadership can take up to seven years to complete and require the completion of a doctoral dissertation. Graduates work as professors, curriculum coordinators, and chief academic officers.
Application Requirements and Admission Criteria
Applicants to online doctoral programs in educational leadership typically need a master's degree in a relevant field from a regionally accredited university. Most programs also require a minimum GPA of 3.0-3.5. Another common admission requirement includes 3-5 years of professional leadership experience in an educational setting.
Prospective students applying to online Ph.D. educational leadership programs must submit a writing sample, a resume documenting required professional experience, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions. Most programs also require a statement of purpose outlining both the applicant's reasons for pursuing a Ph.D. in educational leadership and their career goals.
Many programs also require official GRE or MAT scores from tests taken in the last five years. International students may need to meet additional admission criteria, including documentation of English proficiency by submitting TOEFL or MELAB scores.
Although specific program requirements vary by school, online doctoral programs in educational leadership focus on finding solutions to problems facing the education system. They also train students to become transformational leaders. Most Ph.D. educational leadership online degrees require 60-90 credits and take anywhere from 3-7 years to complete.
The typical educational leadership doctoral curriculum includes coursework in foundational issues of educational leadership, a specialization area, and dissertation research and writing. Students can expect to take seminars that require significant reading and discussion. Some educational leadership Ph.D. programs also require a capstone, practicum, portofolio, or internship.
Foundational courses cover issues like leadership practice and theory, education reform, and education policy and take one year (20-30 credits) to complete. Common educational leadership specializations include K-12 education, higher education leadership, and education policy and require 20-30 credits. Students spend at least one full year and 20-30 credits working on their committee-supervised dissertation. They also take dissertation preparation courses that help them choose a research topic.
The following section includes a sample curriculum with courses in online Ph.D. in educational leadership programs.
Issues in Educational Leadership Foundations
Qualitative Research Methods in Education and Psychology
Educational Leadership Research
Introduction to Educational Leadership
Design and Analysis of Educational and Psychological Surveys
Students who earn a doctorate in educational leadership online learn to identify, analyze, and develop solutions to complex problems in the education system. They gain the knowledge and experience to take a systems-oriented, multidisciplinary approach to educational challenges. Learners build on their prior professional experiences working in education and other fields. Graduates find rewarding careers that make a difference in education, government, private industry, and nonprofits. They take high-level leadership positions that help transform education.
A major component of all educational leadership doctoral programs includes completion, defense, and approval of the doctoral dissertation. Students can use the project management, research, and analytical skills gained from this rigorous academic project in their professional careers. They can also leverage their communication, critical-thinking, analytical, and problem-solving abilities in their roles as postsecondary teachers, researchers, K-12 principals, academic deans, and education program coordinators.
Accreditation for Online Educational Leadership Doctorate Programs
All prospective educational leadership doctoral students should make sure that they choose an accredited school. Accredited universities undergo a stringent evaluation process signifying they meet minimum quality standards.
Students should look for six main accrediting bodies when evaluating schools for a doctorate in educational leadership program. Some accreditors to look for include the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, New England Commission of Higher Education, and Higher Learning Commission. Learners can look up the accreditation status of schools though the U.S. Department of Education.
Some online doctoral programs in educational leadership also hold separate programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, indicating the highest quality.